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Take To The Water For Your Next Nearby Vacation

Ed Ronco
KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley (and his dog, Sophie) says locals should take more advantage of the water as a way to get around the region. There are a lot of good getaways, if you're willing to get on a boat.

A pod of orcas makes its way across Elliott Bay. A small seal basks in the sunlight. Children are sailing in Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor, a cruise ship is pulling out of port, and over near Blake Island, the smell of wood smoke makes its way out over the water. Just another summer day in the Puget Sound.

Ours is an area surrounded by water, which not only provides great nature and excellent scenery, but serves as a big liquid highway to a variety of quick and easy getaways. Most of these locations are accessible by road, but our focus here is on using the water.

Here are some options: 

Blake Island 

Camping is available at nearly 50 sites across this small island just west of downtown Seattle. It also hosts Tillicum Village, which presents a popular salmon bake and offers insights into Northwest tribal history and culture. Argosy Cruises makes two trips daily in the summer, and three on Saturdays. You can tie up in a personal watercraft at 1,500 feet of dock (60 cents per foot, nightly), or any of 24 mooring buoys around the island ($12 per night, regardless of boat size). Electrical service is available at the docks for $6.

Credit AP
AP Photo
The Washington State Ferry system will take you to a number of area destinations. Sure, they're nearby, but they're also good getaways, says our travel expert, Matthew Brumley.

Bainbridge Island

A variety of restaurants and shops await you downtown, which is within walking distance from the ferry terminal. Bring a bike or rent a kayak, if you’d like. A ferry is the fastest way to get here from downtown Seattle, but if you want to go it alone, a variety of harbors also offer moorage. Rates and availability vary.

Lake Union 

Here's one of Seattle's most iconic locations. Rent a small boat or a kayak. The lake is accessible from a variety of public transportation options in Seattle, or on a boat through the locks and ship canal. The lake provides access to a number of Seattle neighborhoods and restaurants, as well as two parks on either end with good views of the city.

Port Townsend

The town boasts a vibrant arts scene, including a jazz series next week and Shakespeare in the park next month. There’s a little bit of driving involved in this one. Port Townsend is served by ferries from Whidbey Island and Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. Or you can ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and drive up.

Vashon Island 

Here's another fun town to visit with shops, restaurants and events, including this weekend’s Strawberry Festival. Ferries run from Southworth, Tacoma, West Seattle and downtown Seattle, and there are two public marinas. Call in advance for moorage reservations. Note that the center of town is a few miles from the ferry terminals, but bus service is available most days.

Victoria, B.C. 

Victoria is a little farther afield, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it. From Seattle, hop on the Victoria Clipper and cruise about three hours north to one of Canada’s most picturesque cities. Gardens, European architecture, museums and an endless series of special events and festivals happen here. If the Clipper isn’t your style, a ferry leaves from Port Angeles. Don’t forget your passport.

West Seattle

Yeah, you can get there by road, but there’s a water taxi, too, and it takes you right to Alki Beach. If you’ve ever driven along Alki Avenue in the summertime, you’ll know why the water taxi might be the way to go. Stroll the waterfront, watch for marine life offshore, take a dip (brrr!), and check out the many locally owned restaurants and stores along the avenue.


Matthew Brumley is the founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which organizes group travel to destinations around the world for various clients, including KPLU. "Going Places" explores all aspects of getting from Point A to Point B, what to do once there, and in between. 

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.

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